Hey - it's my 1000th post on the Embrace Pet Insurance blog!

It's hard to believe that 999 posts ago, I wrote the first Embrace blog post called "What am I trying to do?" on April 28, 2005. As an entrepreneur, I have no time to look years ahead in the future but I must admit, years ahead, it is certainly darn satisfying to look back.

Just to backtrack, the Embrace blog came about as follows.

Alex Krooglik and I (Laura Bennett) were part of the team that won the 2003 Wharton Business Plan Competition with a pet insurance idea (I know! Who'd have thunk it). Once we graduated, we decided that pet insurance is what we wanted to do with our lives and thus Embrace Pet Insurance was born in July 2003. Several years went by (raising money is a cinch compared to finding an insurance partnership) and we sold our first policy in October 2006. Things keep getting better ever since.

The purpose of this blog was to establish Embrace as experts in pet insurance and to build the Embrace brand as open and honest pet insurance that does exactly what you think pet insurance ought to do. As we noticed back in 2003, that approach seemed rather lacking in the market (and not just pet insurance I might add!)

Did it work? I like to think so.

When Embrace opened its doors for business on October 10, 2006, the blog had been running for 18 months. When Embrace launched, you could only purchase our insurance over the phone and so I wasn't expecting very much in the way of sales at all. After all, who would trust a pet insurance company that didn't even have a functioning online sales module?

Well, the phone did ring right from the start. Modestly of course, but the people who called were the ones that had been waiting for us to get going while reading the blog for a year and a half. That and our moms and friends calling too of course :)

In terms of Embrace, we have come along way but our core values have not changed:

  • Open and honest
    Our number one core value and one I mention more than any other when I'm talking about Embrace. Yes, insurance can care and be trusted!
  • Customer fixation
    No-one is ever just a policy number. We celebrate our pet parents' joys and we cry at their losses. They are our Embraced peeps and our friends
  • Community & environment
    We are part of many larger communities, whether it be where our Embracers live across the country, the pet parent world, or the community of dynamic growing emerging businesses, and we share the wealth everywhere we are
  • Personal responsibility
    Every Embracer takes initiative with their own careers, their role at Embrace, and the Embrace community at large
  • Innovation
    We create value for all involved by the innovative approach we take to our products, our relationships with our Embrace pet parents, and our internal operations. We never assume we're done.
  • Passion
    None of the other core values would be meaningful if we didn't truly care about what we do passionately. We really do wear our slippers at work and do the happy dance in the office. 

The Embrace blog has allowed me to share with you our thoughts and cares at Embrace and a bit of knowledge along the way. Thank you for joining in.

Sincerely,

   Lb signature transparent

Laura Bennett
Chief Embracer & Co-Founder
Embrace Pet Insurance

 



Lady Gaga hairballed

Mama elephant holding babyLast year, we participated in Furminator's National Hairball Awareness Day by creating a Mama Elephant and Baby out of cat fur. It was pretty cute if I do say so myself.

This year, we're doing it again and there's a celebrity theme just to make it more interesting. My girls and I chose Lady Gaga as the celeb we would attempt to get a likeness of.

We're big fans of Lady Gaga in many ways so we thought her iconic look would be somewhat possible - even with pet fur!

Here is the result - what do you think?

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Here's the link to the PeoplePets gallery Hack It Up - Stars Get Hairballed for more examples of how celebs can really look good in fur :)

 



Rocket and Rosie go walkabout

Rosie modeling her Joykatz walking jacket
If you just added a new cat into your home, you might be going through the internal debate of "indoor vs. outdoor" cat. I've always had outdoor cats and felt that keeping cats inside wasn't natural for them. But then Lily has had several mishaps and I've seen a red fox trotting by in front of of the house a few times and I get nervous, very nervous.

My two "kittens", Rocket and Rosie, stay indoors, keeping each other company. To give them a taste of the outdoors, I recently embarked on a project to get them walking on leashes. You can see my introduction to their JoyKatz "walking jackets" in my blog post "Is it possible to train a cat to walk on a leash?" in January.

Since then, we've been working on the kittens inside the house with their harnesses on and they have become much more used to them; however, since we live in Cleveland and it's winter, they haven't been able to go outside - until now.

Here's video of me getting Rocket ready for her first trip outside. She actually comes to me if she sees me get her harness out as she knows she'll get treats for wearing it.

Here is Rocket getting her taste of the outdoors for the first time:

As you can see, she had some interest in being outdoors but definitely needs time and practice to be comfortable with it.

Here is Rosie with her first time:

As you can see, she was not particularly impressed, with her big puffy tail and rush to the front door.

We'll keep at it. Do you think you might be interested in training your cats on a leash? The younger, the better as it's definitely something they need to learn.

Special thanks to JoyKatz who supplied me with Rocket and Rosie's harnesses. I've been very impressed with them, both from functionality and quality. And they look pretty nice too!

Related Posts:
March is new pets in the home at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: adding a young dog to the household
Claim example: new Ragdoll cat in the house
Got a new puppy or kitten? Get pet insurance
Claim example: Boss the Rottweiler swallowed a rope toy
Rocket and Rosie go walkabout



Happy Fifth Birthday to Embrace Pet Insurance!

IMG_1081 Happy Birthday to Embrace! This day five years ago, we sold our first policy to me and my cat Lily.

I distinctly remember when we got the go-ahead from our underwriters at the time, Lloyd's of London, and since I was out of the office on that day, I phoned in to purchase our first policy.

We'd been training our first 2 Embracers, Chris and Lea, on the phones by having people (including my mom) randomly call in to pretend to buy a policy so I didn't tell Lea, who happened to answer the phone this time around, that this was a "live" purchase until the end of the call. It was a giddy feeling for all of us when I told her to put through my real credit card info and really buy the policy.

A lot has changed since we sold that first policy but we remember our humble start fondly. We now have 24 Embracers, plus we're about to hire another 2. We broke even in June of this year and have insured thousands of cats and dogs and paid out millions in claim reimbursement. It feels really good to get to where we are now.

Here are some photos of the last 5 years at Embrace - do you have any fond memories of Embrace over the years you'd like to share? 

 

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  • Embrace Pet Insurance staff Jan 4 2007
  • Another use for Dell Server boxes - hidey hole!
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  • Embrace Pet Insurance dogs at work day
  • Chris H on the phone
  • Conference
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  • Tenisha and Lea
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BZTAT turns the Embrace Pet Insurance offices into an art gallery

image from bztat.com I just love it when a path that most likely would end without any particular direction turns out to be the start of an amazing experience.

That random-walk-turned-new-adventure is what happened recently at Embrace.

The start:

  • Blogpaws - I went to both Blogpaws pet blogging conferences in 2010 and made a lot of new blogging friends
  • BZTAT - a pet blogger and pet-focused artist also went to both Blogpaws conferences and she also made a lot of new blogging friends
  • a silent auction of pet art - I happened to buy several pieces from a silent auction at Blogpaws, which was organized by Vicki Boatright - aka BZTAT
  • this led to a nice online relationship, probably one of many such relationships we both made at the confrences.

Now if it was just that, the path might have wandered on without direction.

The development:

But then me visiting Vicki's paint-a-thon to raise money for her local rescue organization in Canton OH led to Vicki coming up to Cleveland for lunch with me to pick my brains on the business side of her world.

image from bztat.com And the kicker? A stray comment from Alex when he met Vicki in the office about turning Embrace into an art gallery seemed to tweak something in both our brains and the idea of the BZTAT Gallery at the Embrace offices fell into place.

What felt so right about this (apart from the fact that we love BZTAT art!) is that "Community and Environment" is one of Embrace's core values. Specifically:

We are passionate about making an impact on the pet world. We are committed to serving both the pet community at large & our own communities at home. We respect our environment & recycle, reuse, & reduce our waste wherever & whenever we can.

So this step makes total sense in all ways. Watch this space for news of BZTAT and Embrace in the near future.

And in the meantime, you can have help the pet community yourself by buying a piece of art from BZTAT.

Go on, you know you want one!



The new and improved Embrace Wellness Rewards program

Since introducing the Embrace Wellness Rewards program in 2009, we've been loving the attention our Embraced pet parents have been giving it. Many people love the program and have given us lots of feedback on how to improve it, particularly increasing the limit and giving us a laundry list of items to add to it.

So, as part of our recent insurance product changes, we took the opportunity to make a few changes to the Wellness program as follows:

  • we have added nail trimming, anal gland expression, gastropexy, and umbilical hernia repair to the Wellness Rewards plan
  • we moved the dental cleanings out of the Wellness Rewards coverage into the new Dental Rewards coverage so the dental illness prevention and coverage were in one place (just like human dental coverage) - more details in a post coming later this week
  • in addition to the $200 Wellness Rewards coverage level, we now have Wellness Rewards Plus with a $400 limit. This will help those pet parents who live in an area with high veterinary costs (like NY and LA) or those with a lot of routine visits to the vet
    • Rewards Plus covers the same as the basic Wellness Rewards coverage but with a higher limit and also adds prescription diet food and OFA and PennHIP examinations.
  • for costs, see the flyer below

Wellness rewards flyer 
I think most people are going to find something here to please their budget.

Related Posts - move to RLI
Embrace pet insurance policies finally move over to RLI!
Embrace moves 12 more states to RLI
Embrace has a new insurance partner - A+ rated RLI Corp
What the new Embrace / RLI partnership means for you - new terms and conditions
PennHIP Pet Insurance Discount now available at Embrace Pet Insurance
The new and improved Embrace Wellness Rewards program

Anyone interested in some Embrace Dental Rewards? Pick me, pick me!
Embrace Continuing Care Sublimits are gone!
Other interesting changes in the Embrace Pet Insurance policies



Great example of using your Embrace Wellness Rewards benefits

Lyger at the lake Over at the Embrace Pet Community blog, Lea recently posted about going online to save some money for her flea and tick preventative medication for Lyger.

It was so easy to squeeze out the most benefit from her wellness budget by shopping online (muchos dollares saved there) and by using the Embrace wellness plan (spreads the cost out over the year and saved $21!).

I like this bit best though :) :

And, since I use Embrace's Wellness Rewards program, to cover Lyger's checkups, vaccines, and preventative meds (even meds bought online) I'll be reimbursed $200 for today's costs!

Check out the rest here: Saving money on flea and tick medication



New Embrace friend alert - PetRelocation.com

New friend alert! PetRelocation.com (this is what happens when you hang out too much on Twitter!) 

If you have ever left the US or Canada to go to Europe with a pet, it's worse than trying to get your own paperwork in order. The rules aren't particularly clear, the airlines are some help but not particularly enthusiastic, and you have that awful feeling as you look out the window on the plane whether they will turn your family pet away at the other end because you overlooked some nuance.

In my prior life many moons ago (pre-kids, pre-MBA, pre-Embrace), I worked at a large life and health insurance company in Toronto, Canada. At the time, I was an actuarial student and lucky enough to get an internal job posting to Dublin, Ireland, which I jumped at. There was just one problem - what to do with my cat Simon?

At the time, there was a 6-month quarantine period for cats and dogs (to prevent rabies reaching the British Isles) and so if you took your pet across the pond, he or she had to wait at the border for half a year before rejoining you. When faced with such a long time in some sort of government pet facility (I'm afraid that however nice it is, my imagination really went wild on that one), I balked at the option and luckily some relatives took Simon into their home while I was abroad.

Now the rules have changed (it's a bit round about but you bring your pet into the UK under the new Pet Travel Scheme and then take it into Ireland) but I must say, if I was to ship a pet abroad while working for another company, I'd hire professional pet shippers.

Pet relocation Since I didn't look at the option all those years ago, I didn't really know much about pet shippers until I was on Twitter (@laurabennett) and bumped into Pet Relocation over there. We got talking and now PetRelocation is one of our most interesting affilate sites.

Since becoming acquainted with PetRelocation.com, I wondered what it would be like if I was moving to Ireland today: how would I do it; how much would it cost; what would be involved? Over at their website, I was quite surprised to find a ready list of most countries you might ever want to move to (and some you might not) and detailed requirements of what you need to do to get from here to there. Here's the page for Ireland.

Now why would a pet shipping company give you all the information so you could do it yourself? Because now you can see how involved the process can be. If you want to do it yourself, you can, but if you find it a little bit daunting (and it's not something you want to mess up either), you can get help from someone who knows what they are doing.

Anyway, it's a great place to start if you are researching moving your pet. Pet Relocation is a nifty example of how a small but focused company can get the job done well.

Shipping within the US starts at $1,000 and overseas starts at $2,500 so it's not cheap but it sure does take the worry out of shipping your loved ones to your new home. I've just put a quote in for my "move" to Ireland so I'll let you know how much that turns out to be.

P.S. If you are moving, you can get a 10% discount off PetRelocation's services over at the Embrace Pet Community in the services section.



Support our small pet-related businesses: waggintails

Waggintails  

I've followed Waggintails for 5 years now. John Gigliotti, the founder, is really passionate about quality foods (read healthy and safe) for pets and has an exceptional online business that satisfies that niche admirably.

So, I was moved to action when I received the email below:

Dear Friend

I lost a good customer the other day. 

I was out of what the product needed, and she was able to find someone else that had it.  “I can’t keep my dogs waiting,” she emailed me.  

She had been with me for three years.  It hurts.

It hurts because I’ve built my whole business on always going the extra mile for my customers and trying hard to earn your loyalty.  And right now, with the economy slumping and with so many of our suppliers hurting, too, it just isn’t possible to always deliver the ship times you’ve come to expect.  I know that puts everyone in a difficult situation.  You can’t feed your dogs and cats apologies.

I could explain it all, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear it.  You may even be hurting, too.  In fact, if you’re feeling the slowdown in your own life or business, you definitely have my empathy. 

I just hope we can get through this together.  I can’t afford to lose another good customer at times like these. 

I wish I could promise things will be better next week or next month, but I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep.  All I can say is, I will continue to do everything I my power to serve you, just as I always have.    

My values haven’t changed, and I know yours haven’t either.   I still sell only products that are good and healthy for pets.  And nothing matters more to my than your pets’ health, and your satisfaction.

There is one thing you can do to help.  If you can place your orders with some extra lead time during these difficult times, it would be very much appreciated.  I don’t want your pets to go hungry or have to switch brands.  And I definitely don’t want to lose another good customer.

With sincere thanks for your business — and your patience,  

John Gigliotti

So if you care about quality pet foods and small business in the US, please visit the Waggintails website.

Better yet, visit the Embrace Pet Community website first and get 10% off non-sale items by clicking through the Featured Partner field top right. We get nothing for your click except the satisfaction that a good business is being supported by people who care.

What do you think of John's email above?



The Embrace Pet Community giveaways

Paws to save pets Make sure to check out the Embrace Pet Community's blog for our first giveaway on behalf of Paws to Save Pets.

Some pretty cool collars and a Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health are up for grabs - check out the blog post for details on how to get your free stuff.